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Bill to permit later registration OK’d

SANTA FE, N.M. — Eligible New Mexico residents would be able to register to vote up until 3 days before future elections under a bill approved Wednesday by the Senate.

But the 19-11 vote to pass the legislation came only after majority Democrats thwarted a Republican senator’s attempt to tack a voter ID requirement onto it.

In a heated debate, Democratic senators accused Sen. William Sharer, R-Farmington, of trying to hijack Senate Bill 224, which now advances to the House.

The legislation is sponsored by Sen. Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces, and backed by Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, who said Wednesday that she supports “making it easier for every eligible citizen to cast a ballot.”

Currently, the state’s voter registration deadline is set in law as 28 days before an election.

– Dan Boyd,

taxes: A $265 million tax package approved last week in the House cleared a Senate panel on Wednesday, but without a ringing endorsement.

The Senate Corporations and Transportation Committee voted along party lines – with Democrats in favor and Republicans opposed – to advance the tax bill without recommendation.

Committee Chairman Clemente Sanchez, D-Grants, said the bill could face “surgery” in the coming days, as it moves on to the Senate Finance Committee, which has already approved other tax increase proposals.

In its current form, the House tax package, House Bill 202, would increase the tax on new and used vehicle sales, levy a higher fee on commercial trucks, require online retailers to collect gross receipts tax and remove some tax deductions for nonprofit hospitals and other health care providers.

Republicans have staunchly opposed the measure, and Gov. Susana Martinez has suggested she would veto it.

But top-ranking Democrats have said additional revenues are needed to avoid additional spending cuts.

– Dan Boyd

solar energy: The state House passed a bill late Tuesday aimed at protecting New Mexico homeowners from unscrupulous companies selling solar-power systems.

Supporters made it clear that they want to target only the bad actors in the industry – not the smaller, local companies that deal with their customers honestly.

“We want to make sure we protect this industry, so they have a good reputation,” said Rep. Carl Trujillo, D-Santa Fe.

The measure won bipartisan support on a 56-6 vote and now heads to the Senate, which has already approved a similar measure.

House Bill 199, sponsored by Rep. Debbie Rodella, an Española Democrat, calls for written disclosures explaining how the financing of the solar-energy system works and what promises about future performance are guaranteed.